Two families wept in Washington County’s Criminal courtroom when the jury foreman announced Danny Greene was guilty of second-degree murder — one with relief and the other in sorrow.
The two-week trial ended after the jury deliberated all day Wednesday and on Friday had their lunch delivered so they could continue examining the evidence. They returned their verdict about 2:30 p.m. Thursday’s deliberations were postponed due to a juror’s illness.
Originally charged with first-degree murder, Greene was found guilty of shooting Brian Ricker, 21, on June 28, 2005. Jason Austin, Greene’s codefendant and first cousin, will go to trial on March 17.
Ricker’s body was found outside the Days Inn motel during the early morning. An autopsy revealed the fatal bullet entered Ricker’s left shoulder, traveled and severed his spinal cord and entered his brain. A forensics expert testified Ricker died instantly.
After the verdict was announced, Ricker’s mother was embraced by her two sons, Blake, 21, and Brennan, while Greene’s family members and friends watched as he was led away by deputies with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
“Justice has been served today,” Diane Ricker said as she was leaving the courtroom.
Her husband and Brian’s father, Greg Ricker, died earlier this year. “I was very stressed,” she said. “When Greg passed away, I thought ‘Why did (Greg) leave me by myself to get through this?’ ” Ricker said. “But I wasn’t alone. I had Tony (District Attorney General Clark), Blake and Brennan.” She also expressed her appreciation to Ashley Fine, the 1st Judicial District’s victim witness coordinator.
Diane Ricker said since the loss of not only her eldest son, but her husband as well, she and her two other sons have become much closer and stronger.
“I feel like this has been a hurdle,” Ricker said. “Now we can take a breath and we’ll have to cross another hurdle in March.”
During the trial, jurors and Sullivan County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Beck, who heard the case after the 1st District judges recused themselves, listened to testimony about the chain of events that led to Ricker’s death.
Austin’s former girlfriend, Jennifer Douglas, testified that a few days before the shooting, she and Austin saw Ricker at the intersection of Boone Street and West Unaka Avenue. Douglas wept as she told how she laughed at Ricker because he was wearing a pink hat. She and Austin testified Ricker then pulled up to their car and said, “What’s up now, (expletive)?” Douglas said when she saw Ricker reaching toward his lap she told Austin to drive because Ricker had a gun.
Johnson City Police Department investigators testified a pearl-handled .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, registered to Greg Ricker, was found in the Days Inn room Ricker and Misty Blackburn, Gate City, Va., had been sharing.
When court resumed on Tuesday, Clark called his last witness, Allen Lee Shaffer, a Washington County Detention Center employee.
Shaffer testified that after Greene and Austin returned to the WCDC after a court appearance he heard Austin say to Greene, “If he hadn’t have pointed the gun at my girlfriend, I wouldn’t have shot the (expletive.)”